Overview of Enrique Roman-Martinez
Enrique Roman-Martinez was a decorated U.S. Army soldier serving at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
Enrique, who was from Chino, CA, joined the U.S. Army in September of 2016 and attended airborne school at Fort Benning in Georgia. After his training was completed, he was assigned as a paratrooper at Fort Bragg in North Carolina in March of 2017. He was awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, Global War On Terror Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, and the Army Parachutist Badge during the time he served. Enrique was an 82nd Division Paratrooper, but was working as a human resource specialist assigned to Headquarters Company, 37th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. He was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina at the time of his death.
More importantly, Enrique was a brother, son, cousin, nephew, and grandson, among others. He was described as being smart, though he struggled in high school. His sister, Griselda, described her brother as being shy, quiet, respectful, and sweet, adding that he disliked fights and arguments and tried to avoid them when he could. Enrique joined the military to help his family financially, specifically his mother, who was working three jobs to take care of her family.
“I’ve never really seen my brother angry. He was just very sensitive. He was very funny, he loved to make jokes. He was incredibly giving and generous.” - Griselda Martinez, Enrique’s sister.
Enrique had an interest in psychology, and dreamed of one day helping people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other mental illness. He wanted to go to college and eventually become a pharmacologist, once he was out of the Army. He was only three months away from being honorably discharged from the Army at the time of his death.
“He was a sweet kid. He would take his shirt off his back for everybody.” - Griselda Martinez, Enrique’s sister.
Enrique went camping with seven other soldiers on Memorial day weekend of 2020.
Enrique and seven of his fellow soldiers traveled by ferry to Cape Lookout National Seashore and camped on South Core Banks. While setting up their campsites around midnight on May 23, 2020, Enrique’s tent was knocked over by the wind and the group of soldiers helped him finish setting up his tent. According to the other soldiers, after they stabilized his tent, Enrique walked off without telling anyone where he was going or without taking any supplies with him, including his cell phone and wallet.
The following morning, the other soldiers interact with a park ranger, who asked them to move their vehicles because they were parked somewhere parking wasn’t allowed. That evening, between 7:00-7:30 pm, one of the soldiers, Alex Becerra, calls 911 to report Enrique missing. In the call to 911, Becerra tells the dispatcher the following:
“We woke up. He was not here. And we’ve been looking for him all day. We were trying to find the park ranger, or their offices or anything”.
“We might be afraid that he hurt himself. We’re not really sure.”
Becerra further explained that the soldiers woke up that morning around 8:30 am and had spent the entire day searching for Enrique. When asked if Enrique was diagnosed with any medical or mental health conditions, Becerra stated the following: “He wasn’t diagnosed, but he did have suicidal tendencies.” His family does not agree with this statement.
The search for Enrique begins immediately.
Several agencies were involved in the immediate search for Enrique, including the National Park Service, Army Criminal Investigations Division, Wayne County Sheriff's Office and their canine team, the U.S. Coast Guard, N.C. Marine Patrol, and the Carte-ret County Sheriff's Office in the days following his disappearance.
A week later, partial human remains are found.
Nearly a week after Enrique was last seen, a decapitated human head washes ashore on Shackleford Banks Island. The search for Enrique is suspended and the remains are identified as belonging to Enrique in the following days. Enrique’s autopsy, which was performed by the Division of Forensic Pathology at East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine, explained that his head had been found with a “somewhat crescent-shaped, incised vs. chop wound" which is approximately 3/4 of an inch deep, part up the cervical spine to the seventh cervical vertebra. His cause of death is officially listed as a “homicide by undetermined means”.
“This tragic death is a real mystery on what exactly happened. All logical theories or suspicions that were developed to date have been investigated and either discounted or disproven.” - Steve Chancellor, CID Special Investigator.
Several additional searches were conducted both on land and in the water in the following months by several agencies, though no other human remains or belongings were found, leaving authorities with few answers.
“My brother didn’t die for his country. My brother was murdered.” - Griselda Martinez, Enrique’s sister.
In the Summer of 2021, the soldiers who camped with Enrique were court-martialed.
Each of the seven soldiers are given different charges and sentencing, for similar actions, though none are directly related to Enrique’s murder. Each soldier was charged with similar charges, including disobeying a superior, using LSD, and making false statements. You can learn more about the specific charges here.
In 2021, a state representative shared her thoughts and Enrique’s case was reclassified.
On October 19, 2021, California State Representative Norma Torres wrote a letter to the Department of Defense's Office of Inspector General, voicing her concerns about the investigation of Enrique’s death. In the letter, she questions the inner workings of the investigation thus far and discusses how there hasn’t been any justice for Enrique or his family in the year that had passed since his death. She further requested that the inspector general review every aspect and detail of the investigation.
“This young man was a hero. At 17 years old, he really wanted to serve his country, and had to get permission from his mother to do so … I think that we owe our personnel at the very least and their families the respect of giving them answers.” - California Representative Norma Torres.
A spokeswoman for the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) announced that Enrique’s case had moved to a cold case status. She further explained that his case will no longer be actively investigated by authorities until new leads or information is brought forward.
“After exhausting hundreds of leads and thousands of hours of investigation, there are no more credible investigative leads remaining at this time, but the case itself is not 'closed,' it is in a cold case status. As always, if new information pertinent to any of our investigations becomes available, CID can and often does reopen investigations if warranted.” - Jeffrey Castro, an Army Criminal Investigation Division spokesman
Where the case stands today.
Enrique’s case remains unsolved and is still labeled a cold case by investigators. Each of the seven soldiers who were with Enrique when he vanished have been sentenced with their respective charges, though no murder charges have been filed in Enrique’s case. In July of 2020, Californians gathered to march and protest the deaths of Enrique Roman-Martinez and Vanessa Guillen, another soldier who was killed on Fort Hood in Texas in April of 2020.
"All he wanted was to do good in his life, so he joined the military, and this is what happened to him? We only have a part of him, that's it. This is not right. This should never have happened to my brother." - Griselda Martinez, Enrique’s sister.
If you have any information, please contact the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division at (910) 396-8777. There is currently a $50,000 reward being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for Enrique’s murder.